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In The Secret World, there are three primary factions that feel as though they are meant to be based in reality: the Illuminati, the Templars, and the Dragon.

The Illuminati seems obvious. It's based on the real-world conspiracies of a secret organization that controls American politics, banks, and media. But because they are so "known" to us, that makes me assume that the other factions are meant to be known, as well. But I can't quite put my finger on it.

What exactly are the Templars? Knights? Crusaders? The game implies this is a faction that lives on to this day, but to my knowledge, they would have been long dead. There's even strong implication that the Illuminati and Templars once coexisted in Europe prior to the colonization of America.

What exactly is the Dragon? Yakuza? Triads? The game makes it clear that this is an Asian organization, but also attaches strong implications of mysticism which makes me wonder if they are based in reality, at all.

What "real-world" factions are the Templars and the Dragon based on? Are these fictional factions mostly real-world or mostly fantasy?

Also, if your evidence is spoiler-ridden, please refrain from including it. I will take your assertions as though they have evidence!

  • I've never played TSW, but I would assume the Templars are supposed to be related to the Knights Templar, another (albeit less popular) rumored secret society in the modern day. Assassin's Creed recently popularized them, but the concept predates AC by roughly 1000 years. No clue for the Dragon. – two bugs Jul 30 '15 at 19:00
  • If I recall correctly from my history classes, it has been theorized that the Knights Templar were actually controlled by merchants with a vested interest in Middle Eastern resources, hence the "holy wars." I believe that's the driving force behind the conspiracy mythos that surrounds the organization. Not to mention that the Crusades themselves were a very shady affair on its face (many knights joined because the Pope would absolve them of all sin -- which means that many less-than-chivalrous knights joined just for the "get out of jail" card... the violence was just a bonus for sadists) – Lucas Leblanc Jul 30 '15 at 21:05
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It would seem that the factions are loosely based on the real world.

As you suspected Illuminati are perhaps the best known - Wikipedia.

As two bugs mentioned, Templars are related to the Knights Templar, as seen on the wiki. The idea being that we wouldn't know if the original faction lived because it is a secret society.

The Knights Templar are basically a radical separatist group of The Secret World's Templars

Source

However, there are some entirely fictional elements

Ragnar: Templars aren't about Christianity. They're about Faith. Which is different. And also about kicking demon ass. —Ragnar Tørnquist, Twitter Interview

The Dragon are a little less defined, likely because they are meant to be the most secretive. They do have some specific inspirations. Without spoilers there are some specific events with China they are officially tied to. While they may be related to the Triads or Yakuza (as Templars to Knights Templar) they are not currently based in these countries. Although it is stated that they have changed locations multiple times, some other organizations may be a better fit. Following this, we should look at China, Korea, and Japan. As speculation I would say that they were (within the game history) the Black Dragon Society (in Japan), which was destroyed at the end of world war 2.

This would be supported by

They reformed in Seoul sometime after the Second World War, which marked the end of the previous Dragon generation.

Source

For a final speculation, I would say the closest current tie would be the Double Dragon Gang. It is close in location and name to the Dragon society, and had recently gone underground prior to the game's release.

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